Ho, Ho, Hold It! How to Have a (realistic) Merry December

I just got off Pinterest. High frequency in my current feed are titles like “25 Ways to Enjoy Advent” and “12 Best Family Activities at Christams” and “101 Ideas for a Memorable Holiday Season”. I’m already tired just thinking about trying to accomplish 101 memorable advent holiday family activities! This year will be my 20th Christams as a mama. I have had beautiful moments and utterly disastrous moments. So dear friends, if you will indulge me, here are just three ways to be realistic as you approach a season that is rightfully special, but often, inappropriately loaded with expectations we can’t live up to. Nor do we need to!

Look ahead at your calendar and plan a loose, flexible list of ideas, scheduling no more than two special family activities per week. Often the biggest mistake moms make, is feeling the pressure to use every great idea you see your friends doing. There are hundreds of possibilities, but only a set number can fit into the average families’ life and not induce utter chaos. For us, two per week is the max. Which means, yes, we have only 8 Christmas-y plans, including of course, Christmas Eve dinner at my in law’s and Christmas Day fun. So really, we have 6. What scheduling a reduced number of plans allows for is spontaneous ideas and moments to evolve, and often those become the best memories. Which leads to the next suggestion….

Keep a stack of games, books, craft paper and movies (Christmas or family favourites) in a central place. Ours is in the corner of our dining room. I have a stack of books that I get out only in December. I pull ALL our games out. I have a small basket with scissors and craft paper and tape/glue. And I round up all the Christmas movies we own. Then as we eat, sometimes if there is energy/time, we can add a game or movie to our evening before bed. But there is no pressure. Over the years, our kids have gone from home every night, to home rarely at dinner, to now- often just Emma and I at the dinner table. When my older two are around, I have learned to let them take the lead with ideas. Older teens are more likely to engage in family fun if they made the plans. So, I get very few scripted “precious moments” any more, but I love the hilarity and noise and “hey, let’s go on a late night doughnut run before we watch Home Alone” moments we have swapped for.

Focus on staying entirely present, which means put your phone away. Before we were instagraming and face booking our lives, we could fully immerse ourselves in a moment without thinking about how to present it to others. Babies grow up. You will completely regret the times you missed a chance to connect because you were too distracted by the picture you were taking. Or the picture you had in your head you were trying to create. Families are often messy and cranky and disinterested and difficult. None of that changes because it’s Decemeber. Allow yourself to take each moment as it comes, and not be devastated if you had to step out of line in visiting Santa to address a melt down, or miss the class party because of a stomach virus or not wear the cute holiday outfit because ketchup got spilled all over the front. Each of those moments, are a chance to express the kind of love Christams is all about. God came down to us in our mess and difficulties to be with us. Emmanuel, God with us. When you step into real moments with your kids or spouse or friends at Christmas to be with them, you are showing a picture of what Jesus did for us. It doesn’t ruin the Christmas spirit- it affirms the truest thing about it.

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